Whitney Ann Jenkins
by Stacey Zering
The killings continue.
Singer/songwriter Whitney Ann Jenkins originally wrote her powerfully sad new single “Enough is Enough” as a reaction to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida in February 14, 2018. However, the tragedy inspired a gun-control movement among its survivors that continues to grow nationally. The song has transcended its origins, becoming a call to action. Moved by her song, I interviewed Jenkins and realized what happened in Parkland ended up having a personal connection to her.
Q: You wrote and released “Enough is Enough” in February as a reaction towards the Parkland, Florida school shootings. Then ten people died in Santa Fe in a similar tragedy. Do you feel the government is doing enough to prevent this from happening?
A: I feel that the government and politics is only exacerbating this issue and delaying solutions by further dividing us as a nation. I don’t think it can become anymore clear that we need to find solutions rather than trade rhetoric by Googling facts that back up our own ideas over social media platforms. This is now a humanity issue. You are against guns, great. You feel like you are willing to take a bullet to defend the second amendment because it is your “right”, fine. But what are we going to do to fix this? How many more children are we going to allow to be gunned down in their place of learning? There have now been more deaths in high school this year than in the military! How did it come to this? How are we going to get over our differences and solve this problem?
Q: When you recorded “Enough is Enough,” did you imagine it would have such a long shelf life in terms of current events?
A: When I wrote and recorded this song, it was in direct response to the Parkland shooting in the moment. I recorded and released it because it opened my eyes to realizing that Columbine was 20 years ago, and it sunk in exactly how long this has been going on for children in schools. It seemed like the Parkland shooting was going to be the one to wake people up and create change. In many ways it has. The students have made great efforts in keeping this topic alive and relevant, they are passionate, amazing, young people, but it’s very saddening that we’ve still not done anything to help them and prevent this in the future.
Q: Some of the Parkland survivors have rallied for gun control after their classmates were senselessly murdered. Your song ended up echoing their own frustrations. What advice would you give them?
A: My song echoed their frustrations because this has been going on for so long, and in a way it is an apology to them. Because this shouldn’t still be happening. Period. I’m not an expert, but I think they just need to continue on being courageous and fearless in their fight. And not feel discouraged and give up; even though the wheels may seem to be spinning, they are slowly moving forward. Persistence will garner the change they are seeking. Eventually, their voices will be loud enough that they can’t be ignored. Continuing the rallies and marches, bringing the communities together, and most importantly, voting for the candidates that are in support of the changes that they want to see happen.
Q: One of your old coaches was in Parkland during the shooting. Did you attend Parkland yourself in high school? How did you meet him?
A: Coach May was my teacher at Hurricane High School in Hurricane, WV. I first had him in class when I was a freshman, which is when Columbine happened. After I graduated from Hurricane, he moved on to teach at Parkland.
Q: Have you heard from your coach since then?
A: We’ve kept in touch little by little over the years. West Virginia is a very small tight-knit community, so there’s a commonality and a bond with people you meet there whether you to continue to associate with them on a daily basis or not. I sent him the song after I wrote it and he was very touched and appreciative, and shared it with those in his Parkland community.
Q: Did you feel relatively safe in high school when you were there?
A: Not entirely. Columbine happened while I was in high school, so that definitely effected the reality of what could happen on a school campus. Also, 9/11 happened not too long after that. There was a lot of fear, and uncertainty.
Q: What were your feelings when Columbine happened?
A: It prompted me to become an activist for gun control. When I was a senior in high school, I won an essay contest on Gun Control for the Million Moms March and was invited to read it on the WV capitol steps. This was not a very popular opinion in that time. Especially in a place where they gave students a week off of school every year to go deer hunting.
Q: What do you think should’ve been done back then to prevent these horrible events happening with increasing frequency?
A: I feel at first there was an effort for more security in schools. They began implementing things like metal detectors, holding drills, and requiring clear backpacks, but that became very lax, and faded away, just as the hype of these tragedies in the media fades away. Awareness of the underlying issues that cause events like this to happen should have been studied and evaluated in a much more serious way. Including mental health. Which seems to be the elephant in the room, and a subject that we tip-toe around, but it’s so important and imperative to talk about if we are going to move forward and come up with solutions.
Q: What form of gun control do you feel should be adopted and why?
A: Stricter gun laws with a strong emphasis on the mental health of individuals who are able to purchase them. So many other countries, such as Japan, have fine examples of controlling weapons. Why are we not looking at countries who don’t have these problems and seek their advice?
Q: What has been the response to “Enough is Enough” since it was released?
A: It has been resonating with people. Angering people. It’s spreading awareness, which is the exact purpose of it.
Q: Have you been to any of the rallies? A: I went to the March for Our Lives rally in Los Angeles. It was very inspiring, and also very apparent that it was the students’ passion project, they were running the show and using their voices, taking the reigns. The adults were just there to support them. Their future is very bright if we can get out of their way.